I backed a Standing Desk Kick Starter

Kickstarter is all the rage, isn't it? As the owner of 3 small businesses, I really like the capabilities kickstarter brings to the table. The ability to fund a project based on merit alone, rather than create and shop a business plan to the venture capital industry, makes a ton of sense. My only complaint is I didn't come up with kickstarter and make it my business before they did.

I've been working from home for 9 years. I find myself to be much more productive when I'm in control of my environment. Coffee is made the way I want, when I want it. I can turn my music up to help me blast through mundane tasks. I can have complete quiet when I need it.

I have had this nagging feeling over the last few years that my desk/chair setup isn't what I need. I have a very hard time maintaining correct posture in a chair. When I need to concentrate, I often sit in very uncomfortable postures that cause pain.

Yeah, so what does this have to do with Kickstarter?

My friend Dan Skaggs turned me on to a kickstarter project that is offering to make a high quality motorized standing desk. I decided it's just what I needed. What I need is a way to get a standing desk the EXACT height I need for a comfortable work environment, and also a way to return the desk to a sitting position when I want.

Also, if I decide standing desks aren't what I need, I can keep it at a sitting height. So no fear of commitment, right?

The project is over the original $50,000 goal by a long shot, so others feel the same way as I do. If everything goes well, I'll have a standing desk shipped to my house by July. It'll take a few weeks for me to get adjusted to working in a standing fashion, but I have some fairly reasonable hopes that if I stand for a portion of the day, I'll be able to solve my bad-posture-under-concentration problem to a reasonable degree.

The Project

Take a look at World's First Smart, Connected Office Desk -- Powered By AI.. They have a smart option, with a phone app, and a regular option without all the electronic whiz, bang capabilities. I chose the regular option because I didn't see the need for all the bells and whistles, when I'm just getting started. After reading more about the capabilities, I may be starting to regret my decision. I am now 50%/50% the smart option would be worth the money for my specific purposes.

I also ordered mine without the table top. I have an idea to make a very cool, custom wood top. For now, I can use glass desk top I have now.

Really, in a nutshell, I'm out $348 for a motorized standing desk (with no top) shipped to my house. That's a pretty good deal and is a lot more cost effective than the other standing desks out there that often cost over $1,000.

Once I get the desk, set it up and work through my initial growing pains, I'll post on my thoughts.

Thinking Like a Cupcake Kingpin

As you know, my company ChallengeWave is a tool for healthy challenges at work. at ChallengeWave, we've got a number of very large prospects (VLPs) in our sales pipeline. These prospects represent many millions of dollars of revenue. Each sale is complicated and requires approval at numerous levels. Each sale also requires a significant budgetary appropriation. These factors increase the sales cycle, or the length of time it take to close the deal and start receiving funds.

Dealing with complex sales is a work of art. It requires skills in information gathering, positioning and patience. Many months pass before we get to an implementation. This is not only frustrating, but it causes delay in verifying our newest capability with users. We've been looking at ways to increase our feedback loop with our customers. We've chosen to do this by finding customers with smaller sales cycles.

Now, the good things about smaller markets is the shorter line to decision makers and budget wranglers. We can get feedback on our business much quicker. We can validate our results without going through a 9-18 month sales cycle.

This presents us with an interesting problem. As we compete with companies many times our size, our nimbleness and ability to deliver customized solutions is a large asset for us. This asset isn't of great interest for smaller markets who may not even have a wellness strategy at all. Much less, have complicated systems to integrate with. We need to carve out a compelling, simplified offering to help small business.

Cupcake Kingpin

Getting to an understanding of this problem and defining a strategy has taken many months. When running a daily business one gets mired in details and it can be tough to see the forest for the proverbial trees. One trick I use to help me step back from details and focus on the big picture is to imagine I'm a cupcake kingpin in the cupcake business. (My years of making cupcakes for my nieces makes me an expert :) ) So I ask myself, if I ran a cupcake business, how might I handle this problem?

The first thing we must do is rephrase the issues in cupcake-ese. This helps us to over-simply the details and look at the bug picture from an outsiders perspective.

My Problem in Cupcake-ese

In cupcake-ese, the problem is we have a new, unproven recipe and we need to see if people like it enough to buy it.

How would you approach this if it was your cupcake business?

  • Would you hire an army of SEO consultants to build link backs and press releases?
  • Would you hire a market research firm to ascertain which part of the Gartner Magic Quadrant you fit into?
  • Would you just discontinue your current offerings and just offer your new product to the public at large? ( Ha Ha, you may laugh at the absurdity of this, but that is what happened with New Coke in the '80s)

My Solution In Cupcake-ese

The way to solve this problem for the cupcake business is to just make up a few batches and hand them out on the street. If people vomit in the nearest garbage can after ingesting your newest cupcake treat, your mix needs adjusting. However, if the test subjects come back with their friends, you have a winner.

So, we at ChallengeWave have a new cupcake recipe and we are looking for suckers a trial group. Group members will get 2 months of ChallengeWave for their use. Employees will be able to track their activities, challenge other employees, compete on teams and compete against other companies.

In exchange for the free service, ChallengeWave wants unvarnished feedback and help with case studies or press releases as appropriate. If you think your company might be interested in giving ChallengeWave a shot and your company is:

  • 10-50 employees
  • flexible
  • somewhat motivated (especially to change their lifestyle)
  • somewhat competitive
  • computer literate
  • team oriented

If your organization is interested in applying for a trial of ChallengeWave for your organization, let us know.

Have you considered the cupcake kingpin approach to problem solving? Have you solved problems with the cupcake (or similar) method? Tell me about it in the comments....

On What Is Important

An article showed up in my inbox today titled Startup Weekend pep talk: It ain't the code. The background of this article is a pep talk delivered by Jason Cohen, of Smart Bear Software to the audience at Startup Weekend in Austin. I happen to agree strongly with the meat of this article and want to share it with you.

Rather than paraphrase the article and add my own opinions, I'd like for you to read it and apply the points it to your own start up company.

Read: Startup Weekend pep talk: It ain't the code

To Free or Not to Free

It's pretty common for web based services to offer a free sign-up account as a trial period or self-directed demonstration. An advantage of offering free sign-ups is to give a potential customer a good look at the system in order to make a buying decision. For services with automated enrollment and simple service structures, free sign-ups can be a good idea. Converting a free sign-up customer to a paying customer helps lower sales costs. At ChallengeWave, we've decided not to offer a free sign-ups. Let's talk a little bit about why that is.


The worst entreprenurial sin

In my opinion, the worst entrepreneurial sin is building a product without a revenue stream. Sure there are strategies to build a web application, go viral and sell to GoogFaceYahooSoft.... but most of my readers live outside of the reality distortion field of Silicon Valley and must actually build a business that makes money.

A business is

A business is defined as the exchange of a good or a service for a profit. If you do not know who will give you a profitable sum for your good or service, stop what you are doing right now and go figure it out.

By figure it out, I mean get some real details. For example, advertising is a choice for a revenue model. Advertising can be a successful strategy and it can also be the lazy man's version of revenue planning. If your monetization strategy is "Advertising", you should get a good understanding of your value as an advertising partner. Some things to think of:


Perfection is the Enemy of the Good

Remember when you used to work at BigCompanyCo as an employee? Remember all the dumb stuff they did there and how you would do it differently when you get in charge? Honestly, that feeling was one of the major drivers for me to start my own company. I felt like I could do it better, cheaper and faster.

I was right, of course, (thankfully!), but I must admit I've learned a whole lot along the way. I'm a software developer/program manager by trade and I've spend the last 12 years building products and services for various companies. This means I've got a very strong technical focus and I'm able to craft and deliver very good technical strategies for lots of situations.

Like, do you need a quick and dirty reporting application to get insight in to your daily sale composition? Do you need an enterprise quality lease contract risk scoring application? Are you in need of an e-commerce infrastructure that can handle the surge of being on all 5 major television networks to raise money for cancer? I'm your guy.

Specialization at the expense of Generalization


So you've got a good idea, do you?

There is an old saying, "Ideas are cheap, 'tis execution that pays the bills". It's possible to have a good idea and use poor execution. It is possible to have a poor idea and use good execution. Allow me to pontificate:

Good idea, bad execution

An example of a good idea that was executed poorly is WebVan. Founded in the late 1990's, WebVan promised to let you order groceries online and deliver them to your home. This is a good idea and one I would pay a premium on. Mostly because I'd be able to avoid maniacal coupon clipping crazies clogging up the isles with their grocery carts and coupon flip books.

The good part of the idea is in taking friction out of the grocery shopping experience. Many a good business model has been in offering convenience at a slightly increased cost.

The bad execution comes in how WebVan allocated it's funds. Since huge tranches of money was raised through Venture Capital and though an IPO, Webvan was not careful with it's funds and collapsed under it's own overbuilt, overspent and underutilized weight. WebVan was voted the #1 Dot-com flop by C-Net in 2008.


I'm going to write about Entrepreneurialism at nodans.com

I use this blog to write about things that interest me. I've been growing ChallengeWave.com for the last few years and lately I'm interested in doing the right things to see our company grow.

ChallengeWave is a service to help employees start and stick with healthier lifestyles. Healthier employees are less expensive and more productive that less healthy employees. ChallengeWave works by giving tools to all users to build an online community providing entertainment and accountability in shared lifestyle goals.

Many people over the years have been helped by my technical writings at nodans.com and have been kind enough to share their gratitude. These days, the majority of what I'm learning has to do with founding and growing a health technology related start up and I'd like to be able to help others with entrepreneurial tendencies.

I help other small companies from time to time with their growing pains. I'm fortunate enough to have several world class business mentors to help me with the growing pains of ChallengeWave. If you have specific things you would like me to write about, please send me a message. As always, you are free to agree or disagree with my opinions and to tell me all about it in the blog comments.

If you are interested in a demonstration of ChallengeWave for your organization, let us know.